SEC Network makes push for more distribution

jkendall@thestate.comJuly 16, 2014 

SEC ESPN Football

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, center

JOHN AMIS — AP

— It’s been difficult to tell at times this week if this is SEC Media Days or SEC Network Media Days.

The network, which will go live at 6 p.m. on Aug. 14, is rolling out its executives and personalities at the Hyatt Regency this week, using the conference’s annual unofficial kickoff to begin its final marketing push in the month before launch.

Justin Connolly, ESPN’s senior vice president for college networks, addressed the media Wednesday, updating the network’s distribution talks. The SEC Network currently has deals with Dish Network, ATT UVerse, Cox Communications and other smaller regional networks and continues to work toward deals with DirecTV and Time Warner Cable.

“Our push for distribution continues,” Connolly said. “We’re encouraged by our ongoing conversations and discussions and we will provide updates as the list of partners grows.”

Dish Network hosted a dinner and party for media members here Tuesday night and the SEC Network hosted a “Movie Night” on Wednesday evening.

South Carolina has spent more than $1 million for production upgrades, equipment and fiber cables that will allow the school to broadcast events in high quality. The Gamecocks hired three full-time staffers to manage the daily business of the SEC Network on campus, led by producer and director of live operations David Cockfield.

Live sporting events televised on any of the current ESPN networks or the SEC Network will be produced by ESPN personnel. After ESPN decides which events it will televise, conference schools will be required to produce at least 40 other live events to be shown online.

South Carolina plans to produce between 110-120 events in the first year, including from baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, softball and sand volleyball.

“We will be ready to do whatever is available to us,” senior associate athletics director Charles Bloom said.

While ESPN’s executives and school administrators are tying up behind-the-scenes details, its television personalities are getting up to speed on the league, and, in some cases, with television work for the first time. Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy will serve as an analyst for the SEC Network and has dutifully made the rounds here, telling everyone he can how excited he is for the network’s launch.

“I’m not just saying this because I’m going to be a part of it, I think it’s going to be outstanding,’ McElroy said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

McElroy has spent much of the past several months learning about all 14 SEC teams, he said, and he believes Gamecocks are “definitely” a contender in the SEC East.

“Everyone is talking about the hole that is left at the quarterback position now that Connor Shaw has departed, but you look at what Dylan Thompson has been able to do,” McElroy said.

McElroy visited with Thompson on Tuesday.

“He just gives off a good vibe,” McElroy said. “You feel an aura and a sense of confidence and a sense of belonging. I think he’s going to have a tremendous year.”

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